Israel has handed over to Egypt two ancient Egyptian relics dating from Pharaonic times that had been smuggled illegally into Israel through a third country.

The artifacts were seized by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and have been preserved in climate-controlled conditions at the IAA’s laboratories.

At a ceremony held on Sunday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem, the two ancient relics dating from Pharaonic times, were handed over to Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Hazem Khairat

The artifacts, which were shipped from Egypt to Dubai and later from London to Israel, consist of two covers of Egyptian sarcophagi, ancient stone coffins, thousands of years old. One of the covers dates to the period between the 10th and 8th centuries BCE, and the other is dated between the 16th and 14th centuries BCE.

IAA officials discovered them in 2012 in an antiquities dealer’s store in Jerusalem’s Old City.

In order to transfer the items, several bureaucratic procedures had to be completed.

“This was made possible in the framework of the longstanding peace treaty between the countries, and thanks to the strengthening dialogue between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Egypt in Israel,” Israel’s foreign ministry stated.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General Dr. Dore Gold said that “it is hoped that the handing over of these ancient items will be a precursor for further bilateral cooperation in the field of historical heritage, as well as other fields of mutual interest to the benefit of both countries.”

Khairat said that Egypt appreciates the efforts made by the Israeli authorities to return these smuggled antiquities to their country of origin, Egypt, and is looking forward to the return of the rest of the smuggled antiquities found in Israel.

The relations between Israel and Egypt have considerably warmed in the past months.

“The ties between Egypt and Israel are an important part of the national security of both countries,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared in April.

In February, Israel’s ties with Egypt deepened when Egypt’s new Ambassador to Israel Khairat presented his diplomatic credentials to President Reuven Rivlin.

Khairat’s appointment marks the end of a three year period since November 2012, during which there was no Egyptian ambassador in Israel.

In September 2015, Israel reopened its embassy in Cairo, four years after it was ransacked by a violent mob and forced to shut down.

Israel and Egypt are reportedly collaborating in the war on Islamic terrorism, which is threatening the stability in the region.

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel

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